BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE
MESA HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Arizona's New League
1942 – Chicago Cubs treasurer Earl Nelson visits Mesa to discuss the possibility of moving the Cubs to town for spring training with the Mayor and other local leaders.
1943-1945 – Due to wartime shortages of fuel and other vital supplies, Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis restricts spring training to the northeastern United States (with boundaries set at the Mississippi River in the west and the Potomac River in the south). Although some exceptions are allowed, no teams spring train in Florida or the West Coast for the duration of the war.
1947 – The Cleveland Indians and the New York Giants open their first year of spring training in Arizona. Owners Bill Veeck (Indians) and Horace Stoneham (Giants) work together on various details to coordinate the move to Arizona (the Indians go to Tucson and the Giants settle in Phoenix).
1948 – The Cleveland Indians’ Larry Doby becomes the first African American player to spring train with a Major League team in Arizona. Doby also had the distinction of being the first black American to break the color barrier in the American League. He encounters the same issues and prejudice as his National League counterpart, Jackie Robinson.
October 1948 – The Cleveland Indians become the first Cactus League team to win the World Series. They beat the Boston Braves in a six game series. Among the World Series firsts is the first homerun by a black player (Larry Doby) and the first appearance by a black pitcher (Satchel Paige).
1950s – 1970s – The barnstorming era draws to a close. More and more, teams return from spring training on airliners rather than by train. Television allows countless fans – including those in spring training regions – to get their baseball fix all year long, so that the lure of barnstorming games outside of the regular season loses its appeal. Teams and groups of ballplayers will continue to play promotional games outside of the regular schedule, but not with the regularity of the old barnstorming contests.
1951 – The New York Yankees come to Arizona to spring train. Yankees’ co-owner Del Webb and the Giants’ Horace Stoneham agree to switch spring training sites that year (the Giants go to Florida and the Yankees train at Phoenix Municipal Ballpark). Veteran Joe DiMaggio and rookie Mickey Mantle are among the great ballplayers in the Yankees’ line-up for the spring.
October 1951 – The Yankees become the second Cactus League team to win a World Series (technically, they are still a Florida “Grapefruit League” team as they only trained in Arizona for one year). They defeat their cross-town and Cactus League rival New York Giants (who trained in the Grapefruit League that spring).
1952 – The Chicago Cubs move into Rendezvous Park in Mesa for their spring training home. Community and business leader Dwight Patterson is the key player in bringing the Cubs to Mesa. The Cubs will stay until 1965. (They’ll eventually return to Mesa.)
1954 - The Baltimore Orioles spring train in Yuma. With their arrival, spring training in Arizona is officially referred to as the “Cactus League” as there are now four teams total. After a year in Florida in 1955, the Orioles are lured to Scottsdale with a brand-new ballpark. They stay until 1985 and then leave for Florida where the team still trains each spring.
September to October 1954 - The New York Giants win the first all-Cactus League World Series, sweeping the Cleveland Indians in four games. Among the highlights in the now legendary over-the-shoulder catch by Giants center fielder Willie Mays of a deep fly ball to prevent a Cleveland rally with two men on base.
1959 - The Boston Red Sox spring train in Scottsdale (take the place of the Orioles who left for Florida). Among those joining their team in Arizona was veteran and future Hall of Famer Ted Williams. Williams was not happy about the move to the desert southwest, but he would only be there for the first two years that the Red Sox were in Scottsdale (he retired after the 1960 season).